Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #211 by Drew Barth
One Shot Day
I love a good one-shot. Sometimes we just need a short piece of comics to see a team of creators really flex what they know about the medium in under a hundred pages. And when it’s a one-shot that works with a batch of superheroes and villains, then it’s something that can be even more fascinating. It’s an opportunity to play with characters outside of the series canon they may be beholden to at the moment while providing some crucial character work that helps their short story stand on its own. And it’s why Batman—One Bad Day: Catwoman by G. Willow Wilson, Jamie McKelvie, and Clayton Cowles is an excellent example of just that kind of one-shot story.
Despite the allusions the name of this story can conjure regarding older Joker stories, One Bad Day: Catwoman gives us something more than a villainous origin. We instead get Selina Kyle’s day out—getting ready for a heist and the quick execution of said heist. It’s a simple task: get into an auction house, steal a brooch, and get out. But it’s the brooch itself that drives this story as we see where it originally came from. During her childhood, Selina’s mother sold the same brooch to a pawn shop and was told it was close to worthless—nothing more than a reproduction of a more famous piece—despite it being a family heirloom. In the auction, however, it’s considered a lost piece of art worth tens of thousands. It’s still a heist, but one with a little more connection to her life.
But that’s not really all that we’re seeing here. Wilson, McKelvie, and Cowles know what can make a great origin story, and instead opt to give us a single point in time and the implications of that for the present. Many characters in the DC Universe have had their pasts mined over and over to the point where we know how much they spent on lunch in sixth grade, but others, Selina Kyle in particular, is a little more murky. We know a good amount, but what matters more than anything is what’s happening in the present. What happened with her mother and the brooch wasn’t a turning point like many origin stories would paint—it was instead a piece of her past that propelled her to make this heist right now.
Throughout One Bad Day: Catwoman, we have these building blocks of the story compounding, one after the other, to create this great story. We have expectations and desires that run in-line with Selina’s own. But it’s the small twists—those pieces that are built into the blocks that we don’t notice right away—that compels us forward. We want to know more about this brooch not because it’s the MacGuffin of the story, but because, despite everything that we learn about it and its origins, it shows us the kind of person Selina Kyle is—where she comes from and what she is when she puts the Catwoman suit on.
Get excited. Get one.
Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.